Just a four hour flight from the United Kingdom, Morocco encapsulates the exoticism of far more distant lands. The towering Rif and Atlas Mountains proved historically to be an impenetrable barrier to successive invaders, thereby preserving the lifestyle and language of an indigenous Berber population who have added a richness and unique cultural depth to this Mediterranean country.
Morocco is a mountainous and surprisingly green country of outstanding natural beauty, where the dazzling peaks of the Atlas, give way to the silent shifting sands of the Sahara desert, and the gently undulating hills of Eucalyptus and Argana trees succumb to long ribbons of golden sand on the Atlantic coast.
Within the walls of Morocco's ancient cities a large number of former Moroccan merchant's homes have been beautifully converted into small riads of great charm and character providing delightful retreats.
In a country where it is not acceptable for a rich man to flaunt his wealth, riads have a modest exterior. A covered passageway leads to an interior courtyard where silence is only broken by the sounds of a fountain in a central courtyard. Lounges and dining areas, open on one side, are built off the courtyard which is overlooked by the upper storeys onto whose suspended corridors the bedrooms open out. Roof terraces offer areas for dining al fresco, boasting great views into the medina below. To stay in a riad is to appreciate Moroccan hospitality at its very best and to enjoy a tantalising taste of a way of life that has remained unchanged for centuries.
You'll need to be cool in the heat of the day but also respectful of the Muslim religion, particularly in the souks of Marrakech, Taroudant and Essaouira covering up from shoulder to just below the knee. Swimwear is acceptable only in close proximity to a swimming pool or on the beach.
The currency of Morocco is the Moroccan Dirham. As it is a closed currency it cannot be purchased outside Morocco. The current exchange rate is approximately 13 Dirhams to the £1. Sterling cash and Travellers Cheques can be exchanged at the airport on arrival or in the resort hotels. Cash point machines, although increasing in number are still quite rare. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely recognised and accepted credit cards.
In July/August the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will be observed during August, which might be an incentive or a deterrent to people wishing to travel. Some restaurants in resort areas might close for the month, but the night–time celebrations, particularly from the end of the second week onwards are particularly lively and colourful.